The wonder that I experience while watching a butterfly effortlessly glide through the sky escapes words. I’ve been drawn to these magnificent creatures since I was a young child, and would often chase them through my yard, hoping that one would find me desirable and land gracefully upon my finger. Butterflies are free, and the arduous journey they take on their quest to emerge from their chrysalis, having transformed into a butterfly, is quite remarkable. Maybe that’s why I am so drawn to them, because they’re not only beautiful, but they’re also survivors; their freedom is their reward.
My journey has taken me many years and the path towards self-actualization and transcendence will take as long as is necessary. There are no guarantees, but I do hope that one day I will truly find that space. My life rarely moves in a linear fashion, as the universe has taken me on many wondrous adventures, planting me in the space I fill now. People have come in and out of my life, time has moved more quickly than I desire, I’ve fought more battles than I care to think about, and I have survived; every single moment over the past forty-five years has helped to mold me into the person I am today.
Not long ago I had a conversation with my therapist, about the person I was when I walked into his office the first time on July 1, just over 6 years ago. I was doing work related to trauma and my body, and where I feel different emotions; as I sat there struggling with my emotions, I suddenly remembered that when I began my work, I was entirely numb, physically and emotionally. I asked him if he remembered that version of me sitting across from him, scared to feel anything, not knowing what it may do to the empty shell of a person that years of interpersonal violence left me walking in.
He acknowledged that experience and how much work I have done growing into the person I am now. That is true, and I know that I would not be where I am today had I not been fortunate in this world to have done that work with him walking along side me, supporting me, holding me accountable, re-framing my negative self-talk, pushing me to believe that I had worth, and helping me find my way back to my emotions. His ability to come from a place that lacks judgement cultivated a sense of trust that I didn’t know existed. He saved my life and helped me to find that free-spirited, queer, intelligent and outspoken woman that I am today.
I know that the work I do as a social worker will absolutely be shaped by the experience I have had in therapy; without even knowing it, he has been my mentor and someone that I admire professionally for many years. The material that I continue to acquire in my master’s courses deepens my knowledge and strengthens what I have learned through my life experiences as a survivor of extensive trauma and managing chronic health conditions. I have been told by my therapist, and the medical providers in my life that I am an excellent advocate for myself, because I insist that I know myself better than they do and don’t let up when I don’t feel heard.
This is what I know for myself, and also know will be true of every person I work with in the future. I know that I hold privilege, which makes it easier for me than for people in oppressed communities to have their voice heard. The importance of acknowledging that, learning and also unlearning will be crucial to the work I want to do and to build trust with people who’s identities I don’t share.
We are all experts on our own lives, regardless of whether the system tells us that the ways we survived where healthy or maladaptive; believing that we are all doing the best we can with what we have in this world makes me a better person and will support me as a social worker.
Every soul on this planet deserves a life as free as that of a butterfly…
Zebra Longwing Butterfly